UNPACK THIS – Review from 4/11/11

By Colin Flaherty

In this largely autobiographical tale, Geoff Paine explores the ridiculous aspects of anger management while delving into some serious issues. The show, which involves several clients in a court-ordered group workshop, does a wonderful job of shedding light on the topics while providing enough levity to avoid a heavy slog.

The social workers Trevor (Syd Brisbane) andLorraine(Michelle Nussey) have an interesting dynamic, starting out with awkward boundary crossings that quickly escalates.Lorrainecontinually spouts the irritating counselling jargon as a well-meaning voice of reason, almost out of her depth in this sea of testosterone. Trevor is the ham-fisted bloke providing hilariously bizarre analogies who tries to keep the discussion on track, even if that means stepping on toes.Brisbanedominates the show with brilliantly exaggerated alpha male bravado while Nussey plays her nuanced role well; bouncing off the others with appropriate restraint.

The participants are portrayed by Paine and Ross Daniels, who each take three characters. Using simple props such as hats and glasses or minor adjustments to their clothing, Paine and Daniels switch swiftly between these characters. Each are given unique mannerisms and voices to help emphasise the humorous lines.

One of Paine’s characters is essentially himself. He spends most of his dialogue butting heads with the counsellors with plenty of witty interchanges, while managing to take a swipe at his own real life background. He also brings to life a suburban bogan, Nicholas, whose bluntness is to the horror of the politically correct counsellors. His third character is Nguyen, a Vietnamese gent whose exchanges are filled with misunderstandings that lead to comical shouting matches.

Daniels’ characters are also well drawn and played brilliantly. Junky Bogdan provides plenty of comic relief to contrast the seriousness in this play. He is a wonderfully edgy ball of energy spouting plenty of wacky lines that could only come from a drug-addled brain. The downtrodden Brian makes for a contrast to the larger-than-life characters – not contributing much humour to proceedings but instead anchoring the show in reality so that it doesn’t stray into farce. The senior citizen Reginald is a character of attrition and sorrow who adds deep sombre moments while piping in with the odd amusing dithering comment.

The script is lively in both comedy and drama. It trades heavily on stereotype which brings humour and gets the points across, doing so in an even-handed manner. The overriding impression is that regardless of the characters’ backgrounds they are all in this mess together and should ‘let shit go’. It’s a fascinating and entertaining play.

Originally published in Chortle Au Tuesday 4th Oct, ’11 During Fringe Festival

Information about the 2012 Season here

Four’s Kin – Review from 3/10/11

By Colin Flaherty

Given the pronunciation of the show title, it’s inevitable that sex features as a topic. In fact all the performers fall back to smutty jokes when their other material doesn’t get the big laughs. Timothy Clark, Morven Smith, Dilruk Jayasinha and Suren Jayemanne (aka Jay E Manne) are joined by a guest MC to bust out their best ten to twelve minutes. Despite mining similar topics, the performers are varied enough to provide an interesting taster plate of new comics on theMelbournecircuit.

The guest on the night I attended was Aiden Pyne who is an excitable wild man. He attempted to whip the crowd up into a frenzy with some dodgy puns, crazy poetry, weird rapping and plenty of shouting but he soon settled down with self deprecating tales of his lack of action in the boudoir. I was intrigued by his modus operandi of digging a comedy hole before introducing the next act, going against the first rule of being an MC. I’m not sure how others viewed it but I found his mini attempts at sabotage hilarious.

First to hit the stage is Clark with plenty of witty wordplay and puns of varying quality. His jokes go to very dark places with filth, offence or a combination of the two being the order of the day. It’s not delivered with any real nastiness, instead he adopts a confident smart-arse persona. He spouts these lines in a rather dismissive manner which manages to elicit laughter and then cause you feel guilty immediately afterwards. A fair chunk of his jokes can be telegraphed, giving you plenty of time to prepare your groan.

Smith is the token female, who delivers tales of sexual predators and jilted love, treading similar ground to the males on the program, albeit from a different perspective. She has an upbeat yet bitchy and cynical air to her stage persona that fits. The tried and proven method of delivering punchlines with biting sarcasm or feigned ignorance reinforces the amusing irony of her material.

The supremely charismatic Jayasinha is next to strut his stuff and impresses with his storytelling. We hear all about his disillusionment with his career, the apathy that struck during university and his lack of luck with the ladies. His main story about a mugging isn’t full of laughs but goes in some unexpected directions to maintain interest and deliver a satisfying pay off.

Rounding out the evening is Jayemanne who bills himself as deadpan but doesn’t really nail it. He is far too animated and expressive to develop the correct atmosphere for the form but his material is certainly subversive. A centrepiece routine about a full body massage manages to combine truncated storytelling with clever wordplay and puns. He comes across as a light hearted version of Clark, neatly bookending this amusing hour.

Originally reviewed at The Melbourne Fringe Festival and published by Chortle.Au on Monday 3rd Oct, ’11

The Shelf season 1, 2011.

By Lisa Clark

To Celebrate our Featured Podcast we are republishing a room review of The Shelf from it’s Debut at The Toff in Town.

Melbourne has a fabulously healthy live comedy scene with venues offering comedians for all tastes, from the nervous newcomers to the polished stars. Four months ago Melbourne comedy legend Dave O’Neil started up his Comedy Funhouse in Fairfield and now two other stalwarts have opened up a weekly room, for the month of October at least, and have their own fun.

These two are Fabulous Adam Richards, gossip bitch of top rating breakfast radio show The Matt & Jo Show,and Justin Hamilton, currently a movie reviewer for breakfast at Mix FM in Perth but cherished as Australia’s best stand-up comedian who isn’t a household name. They seem like an unlikely pair of mates, but apart from both being astute experienced comedians they are geeky fanboys at heart and have obviously created a place where they can put on a show in their own terms and have some fun with friends.

So what is The Shelf and how is it different to the established rooms about town? For starters it has a team of regulars joining Hamilton and Richards: Steven ‘Gatesy’ Gates of Tripod, Tegan Higginbotham of The Hounds and relative newcomer European Man (Ted Wilson). The evening is separated into three distinct brackets, the first is a bit of a mix of chat, stand-up and music, the second a full long set from a headlining guest and the third a live trivia gameshow.

The first section on opening night begins with Hamilton providing a searing set about his recent shenanigans touring New Zealand with Greg Fleet, as well as introducing the evening and co-host Richards. Hamilton is fairly renowned as one of the best comedy MCs in the country and is the perfect host, clearly excited by his new enterprise.

The first guest is rising star Celia Pacquola, home from her new digs in London, her stand up just gets better and better as she becomes more assured about her work. Pacquola has a delightfully quirky edge to her comedy that always adds surprises to her warm, friendly style. She endears herself to the home crowd, which tonight is full of friends and comedy geeks, with tales about how she’s having fun in the UK using her Australian openness to freak out the Pommies.

Next up is a bit of a historical moment in Australian comedy, the first ever solo spot by Gatesy from Tripod. The highlight, which is going to be a weekly feature is his ‘Non Topical’ song where Gatesy sings a song that has been topical in the past, but is not now. Tonight’s song is about Stuart Diver being rescued. It was a bit shaky, but his experience at working an adoring crowd got him through.

The second bracket is pure nonstop Tom Gleeson, currently starring in Good News World and fresh from Edinburgh, where hecklers quickly learned that Tom is not to be messed with. In fact the bulk of his material was about how his hair-raising experiences at boarding school made him impervious to persecution. Tom is in top form, like a thoroughbred during the Spring Racing Carnival he sprints out of the gates with the crowd roaring, and is magnificent to behold.

The final segment is the least polished, which is part of its charm. A mini game show hosted by Richards, with team captains Hamilton and Higginbotham with a guest each, Pacquola and Gleeson. The trivia questions are about things found on the shelf: books, DVDs, CDs or games etc. Helping Richards are European Man and Gatsey, who provides the clues through song.

The room itself is set up in cabaret style with small tables. Toff in Town has hosted many legendary comedy nights including Tripod’s Pod August Nights and Asher Treleaven’s Oyster Club. On this night, I couldn’t recommend the bar as everyone on our table had bad experiences with service. A more positive aspect is that you can book your seat and know in advance that you will get in, which is important for a room with a limited run and popular line-ups.

There is nothing revolutionary about The Shelf, it reminds me a little of Hessie’s Shed by Crowded House’s Paul Hester which was a series of high quality live comedy and music with a trivia quiz at the end hosted by Brian Nankervis. That quiz went on to become Rockwiz on SBS, so who knows maybe ‘The comedy show you’ll never see on TV’ as The Shelf is describes itself, will somehow end up there anyway

Originally published in Chortle.Au on 7th October 2011

Check out  http://shelvers.com.au/

Commedia Del Parte

By Colin Flaherty

Behind a nondescript door in George Lane lies the George Lane Bar. It’s located at the rear of the same building that houses the Melbourne Wine Rooms and the George Public Bar so it feels like a hidden-away rogue brother of the aforementioned drinking establishments. For the past fifteen months Commedia Dell Parte has been holding court here every Thursday night.

With its red lighting and asian themed décor, the room resembles an opium den or classy brothel (not that I would know what such places actually look like! It’s just an assumption.). This atmosphere is apt seeing as the bar lies a stones throw from the notorious Grey St in St Kilda.

Luxurious seating in the form of velvet couches and armchairs are laid out in rows before the stage to seat about 30. Additional seating is available on stools at the bar located near the back of the room as well as plenty of standing room in this spacious venue.

Even though not a lot is on display, this bar stocks a wide range of bottled beers and spirits. They are especially well known for their cocktails.

The night of comedy consists of a line up with about eight acts; a manageable number but it threatens to conclude past eleven when the performers disregard their allocated time. The talent begins with some new faces leading up to familiar names in the later and headlining spots.

Commedia Dell Parte works on the “pay as you feel” honesty system, trusting that punters will pay a reasonable amount for the night’s entertainment. Room organiser Marcus Newman farewells the patrons with his cash box, welcoming Gold coin donations as well as much appreciated notes.

The show starts at 8:30 so get on down there, grab a drink and support the local comedy scene.

 

 

 

 

Local Laughs

By Colin Flaherty

An institution of the Melbourne comedy scene, Local Laughs has been running since June 2003. It has built up the reputation of being a quality night that attracts a quite comedy savvy audience and has many performers queuing to get a spot.

The format of Local Laughs is the standard two brackets containing three or four performers in each. The acts are lovingly curated by Melbourne comedy queen Janet A McLeod and comprises an interesting mix of established acts, up and comers, and special guests from interstate and overseas. Local Laughs doesn’t feature open mic spots, instead giving stage time to new faces who have proven themselves elsewhere, such as finalists in Raw Comedy and other events where they may have caught Janet’s eye.

Quite a few comics come down to watch when they’re not performing, so there’s always plenty of interesting conversations to be had during interval and after the show. The rest of the audience is made up of hard core comedy fans, the families & friends of the comedians and St Kilda Backpackers. Often big names will drop in to try out some new material, especially in the lead up to festivals. The Local provides a comfortable and forgiving atmosphere in which to perform so comics are often happy to try out material and concepts they wouldn’t normally use in other rooms, which has led to some very special performances.

Being a Taphouse, The Local boasts an impressive range of beer from many smaller breweries. There are fifteen on tap (each with its own unique glass) and many more bottled varieties in the fridges. They also have plenty of other beverages available if beer is not your tipple of choice. The friendly bar staff are highly knowledgeable in the beers that they stock and this attention to detail enhances the drinking experience. There is a restaurant upstairs where all of their dishes contain beer, and a rooftop bar. A smaller menu of simpler fare is available downstairs during the comedy.

The comedy venue on the ground floor looks like a old school men’s club, with wood panelling, shelves of old books, lamp shades and seating mostly made up of comfy couches, arm chairs and a few tables and chairs. The doors open at 7.30 and the show starts crack on 8.30 and it pays to get there early if you want a seat.